The class of MINDFULNESS
In today's post, I am talking to Gemma Rigby, Primary School teacher and founder of Omya Spot from Sydney, who explains how we can create mindful space in the classroom.
* effective self-soothing techniques that you can introduce to your students;
* how we can create a mindful space in our classroom so that we can connect with our students' mental health;
* how teachers can use mindfulness to help their students become better listeners
Hi Gemma, why do you think teachers should introduce mindfulness techniques to their students?
Mindfulness helps people of all ages tune into their instrument for learning. By practicing simple meditations throughout the day, you can cultivate the capacity to pay attention and focus. With regular practice in the classroom, mindfulness techniques can bring forward natural curiosity and inquiry thinking for future generations.
We know ourselves, as teachers, that it can be easy to be overwhelmed by a range of cognitive tasks as we prepare lessons, provide feedback and analyse learning experiences. Sometimes we end up completing tasks on autopilot without really paying attention in the present moment. Students also get caught up in the multifaceted nature of a school day. So rather than repeating that students have to pay attention or have to listen and learn. Teach them HOW to be attentive and to be cognitively aware. Prepare their mind for success. Encourage moments of pause and allow them time to reflect and reconnect.
Here are some self-soothing techniques that you can teach children to use independently at any moment in time. You could teach your entire class during a lesson break or your kids may pick a favourite that they turn to every day. The whole idea is that you should adopt the practice that works best for you and just simply makes you think clearly to return to your day.
How can they create a mindful space in their classroom?
Classrooms need to provide the necessary space for children to take a mindful break if they need one. Some students, in particular, will need to access a 'breathing space' on a regular basis, just to make it through each lesson.
In my experience, a calm corner is a perfect way to encourage mindfulness. I am an advocate for student-led and self-directed practice. I believe that students can be taught how to be mindful and they should be provided with engaging resources to allow them to reconnect with their thoughts when they most need to. I have designed the Omya Spot for this reason. It is a mindfulness mat that engages students in their own practice. Once the student is taught how to use the mat, they will naturally feel able to refocus using one of the techniques. My three-year-old son is able to use the Omya Spot in this way. Last week we used the zig-zag lines to concentrate our breathing. When he needs a moment of calm I will see him move to his 'breathing space' on the Omya Spot and meditate by tracing the zig-zag lines and focusing on his breath. We also provide activity cards that can be used to guide student interaction with the Spot.
It is also important to clarify how the mindful space is to be used and how to respect your classmates if they are using the spot. I feel a mindful space is also a great way for the teacher to connect with their student's mental health and to observe how students are coping with their school day.
A lot of students complain they're struggling to quiet their mind while doing a listening or a speaking activity? How can mindfulness help them become better listeners?
Listening is a difficult skill to learn. It doesn’t come naturally to most children and it is something that you need to practice. One of the essential attributes of a great listener is being mindfully anchored in the here and now. As you are listening, gently push away any distracting thoughts that you have or interrupting comments that you would like to make. Just stop, observe and listen.
Children benefit from these simple exercises to bring their awareness to being in the here and now. Just like you strengthen a muscle by working it, you can train your attention muscle when working all of the senses.
When public speaking, practise using your pause button. Take one long conscious breath and regain your focus. Calm your thinking and place one thought in front of the other. It is important to remember that you can only hold one thought at the forefront of your mind at a time. So if you feel your mind is racing and you can't gather the next thing you want to say, you must first pause and then reset. You will find that the more you practice this, the stronger you will become and the more able you will be to focus your attention. Your inner pause button will become very reliable and boost your confidence as a result.
Guided imagery meditations or visualisations can support listening skills. Use a script or write your own. Something as simple as reading a picture book to your child with their eyes closed so that they can focus on building understanding through your spoken word will help them focus their attention on listening to you and comprehending what you are saying.
You can download one of my guided imagery scripts here.
Thank you, Gemma
Gemma Rigby is an Australian Primary School Teacher based in Sydney. She has designed and developed the concept of the Omya Spot to encourage student-led mindfulness during the school day and to support the integration and introduction of meditation at home. She runs a community through social media to connect like-minded parents and educators around the globe.
You can find more information about Gemma and her work here.
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Wishing you a mindful weekend,